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The third release from Germany’s favorite sons can be called the first “true” Scorpions album. Gone are the progressive and extended songs from the last album and all hints of a psychedelic influence have been eliminated. “In Trance” is the album that started their signature sound.
That is not to say this is packed full of hard rock anthems found in their glory days. The guitars have a deathly crunch and furious force. As evidenced in the opener “Dark Lady”, Uli John Roth’s soaring lead guitar and ferocious riff is makes this one of most aggressive songs Scorpions have ever recorded. It also different too in the essence that Roth and Klaus Meine share vocal duties on this song and this takes the cake for being the only song I can enjoy with Roth singing. The earth-shattering screams by Meine are also awesome.
Any Scorpions fan knows that there are going to be ballads on their albums. The fans also know that most likely the ballads are not going to be lame and there is no exception here as the title track is one of the best ever. Meine has a special way evoking emotion in a song and he does here. From the powerful chorus to epic lead guitar at the end, this is one the best ballads the band has ever written. The Beatles reference in the song does not hurt either.
Newcomer Rudy Lenners steps behind the kit and brings more of a rock beat approach as opposed to the jazzy and bluesy element brought by the previous drummers. His work is nothing spectacular, but he does a fine job working the rhythm with Francis Buchholz. “Robot Man” is a good example of the solid work, but it is the electric, shuffle riff by Rudolf Schenker that makes this song very enjoyable. It is a bit quirky with the lyrics, but it adds to the charm and plus the chorus is highly amusing with the lines “I’m a robot man/I’m a loser.”
The guitarists Schenker and Roth bring it on this album. The closing instrumental “City Lights” has beautiful lead playing and is a good ending to “In Trance.” They change things up a bit with “Living and Dying”, letting Meine lead a quiet verse and it picks up with the chorus and the melancholic lead is done perfectly. However, quality drops with “Top of the Bill.” This is the most straight-forward song on here and is the only real clunker. The Black Sabbath type riff does not go anywhere. This song would not sound out of place on their later releases.
“In Trance” is kind of a sad, melancholic album. The title track has a brooding atmosphere while “Living and Dying” is a bit of a downer with its lyrical content and the musical edge to it. Another one of these sad tracks is “Life’s Like a River.” The song talks about growing old and how life just passes by and it is powerful, but also sad in its nature.
The last aspect worth mentioning is Roth’s other lead vocal duty with “Sun in My Hand.” As usual with his other songs he sings on, it stinks. Musically, it’s great; the solos are a joy to listen to and it takes you to another world, but the vocals tear it down. The man cannot sing and it would take another album before the band realized he should have any lead vocal duties.
All in all, “In Trance” is a true, great album of seventies metal magic. Any listener might find themselves singing along to “Robot Man” or shedding a tear to “Living and Dying.” The album moves along nicely and is definitely one of the best Scorpions albums. The good news is they would continue to get better.
Well, the end of 2009 is nigh and what is there to do but finish off Scorpions Month with one of my favorite albums by the German maestros of metal? In Trance is an incredibly genuine, heartfelt work. This might not be quite as good as the double-knockout of Virgin Killer and Blackout, but it is close – an important transition from their obscure early days to the fame they’d go on to achieve later on.
I just really enjoy the smoky, Jimi Hendrix-fueled haze that this dabbles in to great extents. It’s just such a damned honest work. Innocence is a prevailing factor here, with every song being one of predominantly Good Nature. There are no frills here, just loopy, melodious leadwork, laid back riffs and the frivolous vocals of frontman Klaus Meine, who sounds surprisingly young and delicate here, without the edge he would grow on some of the future releases. A lot of these songs are actually of a more restrained tempo, with even the heavier ones falling prey to the egregious guitar solos and leads.
Long live those leads. So entrenched in 70s rock beauty are they – castles in the wind, made of sand, perhaps falling down as the tide of the band’s forthcoming success washes in. Uli Jon Roth is just a God on here. He completely dominates, moreso than on any of the following albums he’s on. Every song is endowed with 70s-style leads, riffs and harmonies so delicious that it’s hard to really believe what you’re hearing at times. It’s just such a delightful album to listen to. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song from this band as wistful and remorseful as “Evening Wind” – none so beautiful, for that matter, either. Images are conjured of epic nights under the stars, never ending, endowed in fields of long grass and glistening fireflies. The Sabbathine riffs ride out in between the huge, searing solos that graze it so thoroughly.
And other songs share a similar temperament – the catchy title track, the melodic crunch of “Life’s Like a River,” the strange mini-epic “Living and Dying” and the slow burn of closer “Night Lights” – all of these songs bust out killer leads and fuzzed-out exclamations of bliss that you would be hard pressed not to enjoy. The harder, heavier tracks like “Dark Lady” and “Top of the Bill” pick up the pace a bit with wondrously fun grooves and timeless songwriting, just great fun all around.
I do have to dock them a couple of points for throwaway tracks like “Longing for Fire,” though. And “Robot Man” is kind of fun, but it really does break up the mood here, and I can’t help but think they should’ve either moved it to another album or at least not put it in between the majestic, dreary 70s hangover of the rest of the songs here. It just breaks the flow a bit, and the album would’ve really built up better if it wasn’t there.
But, hey. Most of this album is like a dream; hazy and oddly colored, but memorable beyond all doubt. Only you’re not sleeping, you’re witnessing Heavy Metal brilliance at work, wide awake, with both ears open.
Why do I call this the first „real“ Scorpions album? Well, here we have some of the band’s trademarks appearing for the first time. When you look at the album cover you see the typical band logo, which wasn’t there yet on the albums before, and a picture with some kind of sexual content. But also the music has changed. On In Trance the Scorpions develop a more streamlined sound. The progressive structures of the two predecessors are gone (Note: Drummer Jürgen Rosenthal left to join Eloy, a German progressive rock band). We have no nine-minute epics here; all the songs are shorter than five minutes. Although I am a huge fan of progressive rock, I really appreciate the Scorpions’ new musical approach because it sounds much more focused than Fly to the Rainbow, which lacked direction.
The album as a whole does not sound completely different from Fly to the Rainbow, but it seems they’ve taken the best parts and developed them further. We still have dreamy, slow parts but also a stronger focus on hard rock. Uli Jon Roth has much more impact here than on Fly to the Rainbow. There are six songs he has written or co-written, a fact I like very much. Roth shows that, apart from being a great guitarist, he is also an excellent songwriter. Of the songs he wrote on his own, I like the opener Dark Lady, the slower Evening Wind and the album closer Night Lights best. Dark Lady is a heavier track with Uli and Klaus both singing. It sounds a bit chaotic but it’s a really good opener. Evening Wind sounds mystic and beautiful. This one could be included on the album before. Night Lights is a short instrumental , which allows Uli to demonstrate his outstanding lead work. He also brings in two weaker songs. The Hendrix inspired and heavily blues driven Sun In My Hand (sung by himself) and the nice rocker Longing For Fire (reminds me of This Is My Song), which he wrote together with Rudolf Schenker. These two are not bad, but not as good as the rest.
On the other hand, we witness the first appearance of the typical Scorpions power ballad, which is the title track. Surely, this doesn’t sound like Still Loving You, but In Trance is the prototype. And it is a good one. The song itself is very melancholic, with Klaus singing with a whining tone. Life’s Like a River and Living And Dying are similar but less dark.
Remember Speedy’s Coming? This was the first real hard rock song the Scorpions did and they develop that idea further on In Trance with Top of the Bill. This is the Scorpions at their heaviest with Klaus screaming at the top of his voice. This is definitely a classic. It brings in the typical rock related lyrics (instead of Roth’s poetic approach), which will become a trademark on future albums. Robot Man, also one of the heavier songs, needs to be mentioned because it sounds like they wanted to do something futuristic. The song itself has kind of a swinging rhythm (not like on Tokyo Tapes, where it becomes a straight rocker) with some distorted (robotic?) vocals. Interesting!
o draw a conclusion I have to say that you won’t find either a progressive masterpiece like Fly to the Rainbow (the song), nor an absolute rock classic like Blackout. But the album as a whole has a very good flow and none of the songs is really bad. If you don’t own In Trance yet, get it now!
Highlights: In Trance, Top of the Bill, Night Lights, Robot Man
I’ve had this album for several months now and despite my best efforts to get around to hearing it, I’ve had to keep putting it aside in favor of more urgent listening material. A foolish decision this turned out to be, because In Trance is one of the best albums that the Scorpions ever released. Taking the meandering, bluesy spirit of their earlier releases and focusing it into tight, coherent heavy metal, this is the first taste of the true Scorpions sound.
In Trance is the first Scorpions album to feature no material that can be accredited to Michael Schenker (who abandoned his band years before to join UFO). As such, it features more material penned by Uli Jon Roth, who would be fundamental in elevating the Scorpions from obscure krautrockers to 70’s metal legends. He may have left the band by the time they released their well-known material (Mathias Jabs is the lead guitarist on their 80’s albums), but it was Roth who would be there for their best material, such as much of what is present on In Trance.
That material is almost evenly split between two types of songs: those written by Roth and those written by Rudolf Schenker and Klaus Meine. The latter are the ones that most Scorpions fans will be comfortable with. These are the straightforward rockers (“Top of the Bill,” the delightfully cheesy “Robot Man”) and atmospheric numbers (the title track) that would reappear a bit more superficially on their 80’s albums to much applause. The Roth tracks are a bit more mystical and a lot heavier, reminiscent of Judas Priest albums of the same era (particularly Sin After Sin). There’s also a pair of Schenker/Roth collaborations that are just as dazzling as the rest. The general idea here was to make more succinct songs, rather than the longer, less organized tracks of before and everybody involved makes this work beautifully. Some of the best harmonized leads in the band’s career (and perhaps in all of history) appear here and give the boys in Thin Lizzy a major run for their money. Roth’s playing particular speaks to the neoclassical and it’s fairly clear that his work is a major stepping stone on its development in metal (nestled nicely between Blackmore and Malmsteen). Little keyboard touches add immensely to the album’s more atmospheric tracks (“Evening Wind”) while Klaus Meine gives a powerful, emotional performance wherever he’s employed (if it doesn’t sound like him at certain points, that’s because it’s not. Roth has a few vocal contributions, namely on “Dark Lady” and “Sun in my Hand”). The rhythm section is solid, though Rudy Lenners’ drumming leaves a little to be desired when compared to the guys on the first two albums.
It is also worth noting that this is the first of what would be several albums produced by Dieter Dierks, who would work with the band at least up until Blackout (and perhaps further). Some credit for this album’s appeal must go to him.
Certainly an essential 70’s metal album. From the chaotic guitar maelstrom of “Dark Lady” (comparable in density to Priest’s “Dissident Aggressor” or Rush’s “The Necromancer”) to the expressve outro that is “Night Lights,” the whole production just exudes quality. This band had a certain magic to them back then, a magic that would disappear in their quest for popular appeal (just like with Judas Priest, I can’t stress this enough). Enjoy this and their other 70’s material, it’s classic heavy metal, kids. Period.
This third studio effort by the legendary Scorpions is a solid follow up to the brilliantly woven "Fly To The Rainbow." Although similar to its predecessor thematically and compositionally, "In Trance" is original and varied enough to exhibit their slow evolution as a band and stand tall on its own merit. From these two albums, a listener can discern the truly metallic elements of this band - the pure and "essential" Scorpions sound which later (arguably) devolved into the diluted, poppier, chorusy MTV-oriented Scorpions fare which emerged in the early to mid 1980's. Some of the album's highlights include the title track, a gloomy, reflective tension builder which deliberately explodes into a thunderous, authoritative wall of guitar, perfectly balanced by a young Klaus Meine's unique and masterful wailing. "Evening Wind" is a subdued, blues-tinged ballad, drawing the listener into its hypnotic, droning, Sabbath-heavy atmosphere before lifting you into its dramatic climax and then dropping you into a bed of ether. "Night Lights" is another aural testament to the Scorps uncanny ability to creep into the listener's mind like an invisible acoustic mist, gradually imposing its simple electric heaviness upon you (as opposed to dragging you down into a smoky dungeon of slow metallic harmonies from the get-go). Lay back on your bed in a chemical haze and ponder the radiant boundlessness of the universes while listening to these. There are also a number of straightforward mid-to-fast tempo "rock-n-roll" songs, which one could argue are less inspiring than the slower, more atmospheric ones, however this judgment is up to the listener. Lyrically, this album is standard early Scorpions fare, ranging from the ridiculous rock-n-roll narcissism of "Top of the Bill" to the every-metal-kid's-fantasy-succubus-worshipping "Dark Lady" to the beautiful, ponderous "Life's Like a River." Whether one is into the Scorpions or not, none could diminish the argument that these songs were crafted with a musical integrity and passion that is rarely found these days, where many metal bands (even good ones unfortunately) come and go without much new to offer to the seething, hungry, blackclad hordes around the world. "In Trance" is an excellent example of the (then young) Germans at the peak of their creative power, and long before the clutches of the corporate music machine poisoned the simplistic and inimitable heaviness which solidified them as a metal band (as opposed to the sadly transfigured arena rock band they are today). This album (and its two predecessors) is an excellent place to start for metalheads who never imagined there was a Scorpions before "Rock You Like A Hurricane," and should also prove a pleasantly surprising kick-in-the-ass for anyone who just plain appreciates solid 70's metal.